Archive for May, 2012

Another Lesson on Humility

And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is you Father, which is in heaven.  Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.  But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.  And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased: and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

Matthew 23:9-12

Jesus here gives his disciples another lesson on the vital virtue of humility.  As much as the Lord hates pride, he loves humility.  And as much as Satan is our example of pride, Jesus Christ is our perfect example of humility.  This lesson is about our habit of striving for “titles,” honour and exaltation.

Our flesh loves to be honoured and exalted.  Our flesh loves to have title of honour.  Just look at intellectuals – they love those letters after their name.  Many of them can’t bear to see their name in print without seeing their degrees listed after it.  All of us have those things about which we like to be exalted.

But Jesus again tells us that, if we want to be exalted (and who doesn’t), we need to humble ourselves.  Those who try to exalt themselves will be abased.  Those who humble themselves will be exalted.  It may sound contradictory, but that is how it works in the kingdom of God.

When we think about humility and exaltation, we have to decide which would be better – to be exalted by ourselves or to be exalted by the Lord.  We can only have one or the other.  Our own exaltation will be short lived and probably not much of an exaltation at all.  On the other hand, humbling ourselves and allowing Jesus to exalt us will cause us to reap the rewards for all of eternity.  The choice is ours – which will we take?

I Have Decided to Follow Jesus (Hymn)

I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
S. Sundar Singh

I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.

Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.

Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.

This is one of my all-time favorite hymns.  “I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back, no turning back.”  That should be our attitude every day of our lives.  Even though we may follow Him alone, we still follow Him.  We are “prone to wonder,” but still we follow.  If we keep the cross in front of us and the world behind us, we will have a much easier time following Him.  “Will you decide now to follow Jesus?”

The Two Commandments? Pt. 2

Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Matthew 22:35-40

We looked yesterday at the answer that Jesus gave to this lawyer about “what is the great commandment in the law.”  The first and great commandment is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”  That is the number one commandment and obeying it will help us in every aspect of life.

Today, we will look at the second commandment that Jesus gave.  “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”  When you think about it, loving our neighbour as ourself will take care of so many of our problems.  It goes back to the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Think about the other commandments and how they relate to our “neighbours.”

If we love our neighbour as ourself, we are not going to kill them, we are not going to commit adultery with them, we are not going to steal from them and we are not going to lie to them.  We don’t want any of those things done to us, and if we are following this “second commandment,” we aren’t going to do them to anyone else.

Love the Lord with all that you have and love your neighbour as yourself.  Can you imagine how great our lives and the lives of those around us would be if we would follow those two simple commandments?  On those two commandments “hang all the law and the prophets.”

The Two Commandments?

The one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment of the law?  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is luke unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Matthew 22:35-40

One of the Pharisees, who, as usual, were trying to catch Jesus in His words.  They asked Him which was the “great commandment” of the law.  And, as always, He gave them a perfect answer.  Instead of going through the “ten commandments” of the law and picking one, He summed up the entire law with two simple laws: love the Lord with everything you have and love your neighbour as yourself.  That is a perfect summation of the Old Testament law.  We will look at the first and greatest law today.

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”  If we would follow this law, we would solve most of the problems in our lives.  Loving the Lord as we ought will help us in every other area of our lives.  Loving the Lord will help us be better people, better Christians, better Fathers and Mothers and brothers and sisters, better friends, and better employees.  It will improve every area of our lives.

But we have to love Him “with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds.”  We can’t just love Him a little or love Him sometimes.  In order to follow this commandment, we have to be totally dedicated.  Do we really love Him will “all our hearts, souls and minds?”

The Danger of Religion Without Jesus

But what think ye?  A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.  He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.  And he came to the second, and said likewise.  And he answered and said, I go, sire: and went not.  Whether of them twain did the will of his father?  They say unto him, The first.  Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.  For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.

Matthew 21:28-32

Jesus is talking here to the chief priests and warns them that the “publicans and harlots” have a better chance of entering the kingdom of God than they do.  The reason?  They are rejecting Him.  The chief priests and elders were dedicated to their religion, but they did not have Jesus Christ.  They rejected Him.  You find that the publicans and harlots, the “hardened sinners” were the ones who accepted Him.

Today, there are many people who are dedicated to their “religion.”  In fact, we may have more “religion” now than we have ever have.  But, sadly, most of that “religion” is lacking the one thing that is desperately needed: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Without Him, our religions are hollow and vain, just like that of these chief priests and elders.

The chief priests and elders had all of the religion in the world.  But they didn’t have Jesus Christ.  There is a vital difference.  They would not enter the kingdom of God, while those who accepted Jesus would.  Let us make sure that what we have is a relationship with the Lord and not just a hollow, formal shell of religion.

The Importance of Serving

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.  But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Matthew 20:25-28

This is one of the seeming contradictions in the Bible.  Jesus here tells His disciples that they should strive to serve instead of striving to “be the boss.”  This is sometimes difficult for us.  We have an innate desire to be great and to be “chief” at whatever it is we do.  If we are going to do something (or be something), we naturally want to be the best.  Bigger, stronger, faster, smarter, richer, better – that could probably be our motto.

But Jesus says here that, instead of working to raise ourselves up, we should be working to serve.  Our highest honor in life is serving Jesus, and we should strive to be the best servant possible, putting His needs and the needs of others above our own needs.

As always, Jesus is our perfect example.  “the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  Jesus came and spent His life helping and serving others.  At the end of His earthly life, He gave His life “a ransom for many.”  In life, He served His Father and others.  In death, He served His Father and others.

Let us follow the perfect example of Jesus Himself and seek to spend our lives serving and ministering to others.

Forgiveness.

Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.  And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.  But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.  The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.  Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.  But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.  And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.  And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

Matthew 18:23-30

This is a wonderful lesson in forgiveness for us.  The lord in the story is the Lord God.  We are the servant with an unpayable debt that was forgiven.  And we are the ones who go around not being willing to forgive others for wronging us.  I like to do the math when I see numbers like we are given here, and I think doing that sheds even more light on the situation.

The servant owed 10,000 talents.  A talent was between 50 and 110 pounds of gold.  That is, in today’s dollars, approximately $19,200,000,000.00 (over 19 trillion dollars).  That is an unpayable debt; there is no way the servant could ever pay that debt.  Just as we could never, on our own, pay our sin debt.  The servant asked the Lord for mercy and he received it.  He was forgiven of his 19.2 trillion dollar debt, just as we have been forgiven of our sin debt.

Then he went and threw another fellowservant into prison because he owed him 100 pence.  A pence has a rough equivalent of $.16.  Sixteen cents.  So 100 pence would be a whopping debt of about $16.  He threw a fellowservant in prison over 16 dollars.

Isn’t that like us?  We have been forgiven of a 19 trillion dollar debt but we can’t bring ourselves to forgive our brother or sister over 16 dollars.  Maybe we should think of this story the next time we are hesitant to forgive someone for wronging us.

Your Memory

The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot.

Proverbs 10:7

Last week, my aunt went to be with the Lord.  We had her funeral, and whenever you deal with the loss of a loved one, you can’t help but think a little about memories.  It may sound simple, but how we are remembered after we are gone is based on how we lived while we were here.  Some people are remembered fondly, and some are remembered not so fondly.

This proverb gives us an idea of what we need to do to have a “blessed” memory.  “The memory of the just is blessed…”  First, we need to be just.  When we are saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, we are justified, or, we are declared innocent.  We are then “justified” positionally.  Now we can live as a “just” person.  Our life should always match our position, but, sadly, that is not always the case.

We can live as a just person.  We can do right.  We can do right in our dealings with others.  Doing right will give us a blessed memory.  We appreciate people who do us right.  We remember people who treat us with respect.

On the other hand, “the name of the wicked shall rot.”  The name of the wicked shall be quickly forgotten.  When something rots, it’s repulsive for a short while; after which, it just kind of vanishes.  Is that what we want our memories to be?  Do we want people to remember us negatively, after which they forget about us?  That would be a sad life.

When we are gone, we have no control over how people remember us.  But while we are still here, we have complete control over it.  How will we be remembered – with the just or with the wicked?

I Am Happy in the Service of the King (Hymn)

I Am Happy in the Service of the King
Alfred H. Ackley

I am happy in the service of the King.
I am happy, oh, so happy;
I have peace and joy that nothing else can bring,
In the service of the King.

Chorus
In the service of the King
Every talent I will bring;
I have peace and joy and blessing
In the service of the King.

I am happy in the service of the King.
I am happy, oh, so happy;
Thro’ the sunshine and the shadow I can sing,
In the service of the King.

(Chorus)

I am happy in the service of the King.
I am happy, oh, so happy;
To His guiding hand forever I will cling,
In the service of the King.

(Chorus)

I am happy in the service of the King.
I am happy, oh, so happy;
All that I possess to Him I gladly bring,
In the service of the King.

(Chorus)

I’ve always liked this song.  It’s one of those tunes that gets stuck in your head and you find yourself humming it all day, which, in the case of this song, is a good thing.  The question today is this: are we really “happy in the service of the King?”  Sometimes we get weary in well-doing and lose that happiness.  If we will submit to Him and follow Him in loving service, we can experience the “peace and joy that nothing else can bring.”

The Sluggard

How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard?  when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?  Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.

Proverbs 6:9-11

The sluggard is the lazy person.  Proverbs has much to say about the sluggard, and none of it is good.  I think that we are , in some ways and at some times, relaxing ourselves to death.  The sluggard doesn’t want to work.  It’s as simple as that.

The sluggard is asleep and doesn’t want to get up.  As our real life experience bears out, these verses are true when they say “so shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.”  Laziness (both physical and mental) brings poverty (both physical and mental).  And when poverty and want come, they come fast.

The more I read the Bible, the more I begin to realize just how practical it is.  If you want to profit, you are going to have to work for it.  You are going to have to earn it.  Whether that profit is some physical possession, a mental talent, or even something spiritual, we are going to have to wake up and work for it.

Again, most people tend to think about laziness and poverty as physical things, but they can also be mental or spiritual.  If we want to get our prayers answered, we are going to have to wake up and pray.  If we want to know the mind of Christ on a particular issue, we are going to have to wake up and read our Bibles.  If we want to draw closer to the Lord, it is going to require an effort.

There are so many different ways in which we could apply these verses.  But we can definitely say that the sluggard is not going to be blessed.